Attacking 3Bettors

Jack Wilcox (Hoodlincs) Profile Photo

By Jack Wilcox

3 Apr, 2011

When you're playing out of position, players advocate either 4betting or folding in response to a 3bet. This is because hands become tougher to play when you're out of position.

This is especially the case when you do not have the initiative — you check the flop, your opponent bets, and you don't know what to do because they may be bluffing, or they may have a big pair.

However, many players have huge leaks in their 3betting game. For example, they will pretty much 100% continuation bet on any board that isn't coordinated, so they're going to cbet anything that isn't a two-tone type flop like this:

Js 8s 6d

Providing that your opponent 3bets a decent amount, you can use a little bit of mathematics to find some great spots to exploit them, because if they are re-raising pre-flop a lot with unpaired hole cards (even AK/AQ etc.), most of the time they will miss the flop — that's just the odds in Hold'em poker.

Typical 3bet situation.

You are dealt:

As Qh

Preflop: You raise, and you get 3bet.

Most people either:

  1. Fold
  2. 4Bet - then decide whether to fold or call if the opponent pushes all in.

Assuming 100bb effective stacks, the problem with 4betting and folding to a shove is that you have a great price to call. And if they're ever 5betting all-in as a bluff, you're making a huge mistake and losing money, because you're folding the best hand.

On the other hand, the problem with 4betting and calling a shove is you rarely get it in ahead unless they're bluffing, and if they're not, you're often getting it in against AK and are crushed.

What should I do with AQ if I can't 4bet?

You can still commit to seeing all 5 cards, but in a different way:

Call the 3bet, check the flop, let them continuation bet (with almost their entire range)... then check-raise all in.

The primary reason is that this is going to make them fold out AK, which currently crushes you, and therefore forces them to make a massive theoretical mistake by folding a hand with about 85% equity. It also capitalizes on a vast amount of fold equity, because they will also be folding any hand which isn't a pair.

Can't we check-raise smaller, then fold to a shove?

When you check-raise and fold to a shove, you are making an error if they're ever bluffing with hands like gutshot straight draws, or just random hands like AJ/KQ.

The amount you lose doing this is huge, and while it is rare, you can't allow yourself to make errors like this in poker.

Can't we just call the continuation bet, then take it away on some turns?

When you call, you will not usually have a great idea of how your opponent plays the turn, and therefore it's difficult to make good decisions. When you get to the turn:

  • Maybe they check back JJ/Tx, and bluffcatch you on the river when you bet.
  • Maybe they pick up a draw and decide to barrel, and you end up folding the best hand.

Unless you know your opponent well, it's just too tricky to call and see a turn, because calculating the EV of doing so becomes infinitely difficult.

On the other hand, when we calculate shoving the flop, we can automatically see whether it will be +EV or -EV. We can then compare this to folding (which is 0 EV) and see which option is better.

Can you show me the mathematics to prove this theory?

Check out the mathematics in my semi-bluffing by raising all-in article.

But basically, against an opponent 3betting about 9% in a blind vs. blind spot, you will make a profit by check-shoving a bunch of dry flops where you have a backdoor flush or straight draw.

10c 4h 2s
"But do we represent anything by check-shoving this flop? With a marginal hand like Tx we would check-call, and with a set we would either check-call because the board is dry, or we would check-raise small. Can't they tell this has to be a bluff?"

Well, when you are looking at this hand from the perspective of making the bluff, it's reasonable to think that.

However, most opponents will likely put you on 88/99/JT and think that you're not sure what to do, so you just check-shove to avoid a scary turn card and end the hand. It depends on how well they've got you figured out.

Furthermore, even if they do think you can be bluffing, average players just don't call with AK here. If you posted this hand on a forum from villain's perspective (where you're getting check-raised all-in on T42 and you have AK high), everyone will tell you fold.

Should I call every 3bet with AQ, and check-raise all in when I miss?

No. If you are against a tight 3bettor, or someone who checks AK on this type of board, then the play can quickly become very, very -EV.

However, most players at the small-stakes games will be auto-firing these types of boards, and when their 3bet% is high enough, it creates hugely +EV spots to check/shove like this.


When utilizing plays like this, you should not only consider the mathematics, but also strongly consider the gameflow (or "metagame").

There will be certain situations where recent history means that someone who 3bets a lot may not be 3betting a lot against you specifically (if they have recently shown a bluff for example), and therefore the logic of using mathematics like this goes out of the window.

However, it's good to be able to realize that awkward situations like this can be +EV, providing you are in the right situation. Hopefully after reading this article you will be able to identify profitable situations you can apply this to in the future.


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